Photo: Ernesto Candia (right) will open The Fish Market, located at 151 E. Route 38 in Elburn. Photo by Cheryl Borrowdale
ELBURN—Fresh fish is something of an obsession for Ernesto Candia, who’s been running a successful fish market in St. Charles for four years, and he plans to bring it to Elburn later this summer.
Candia will open The Fish Market, located at 151 E. Route 38 in Elburn, sometime this summer, though he doesn’t have an opening date set yet.
It will be the third location for Candia and his wife, Saida, who own Saida’s Fresh Seafood Market in Barrington, Ill., and the E & S Fish Company in St. Charles. Elburn seemed a natural place to expand, Candia said, because they seek the same kind of customers who frequent Ream’s Meat Market.
“It’s a nice area,” Candia said. “It’s a small town, but it’s growing, and they don’t have too many choices. A lot of the customers I have in St. Charles shop at Ream’s. That’s the kind of customer we’re looking for, people who know what’s good.”
Candia’s new store will have a changing selection of fresh fish daily, based on what’s freshest seasonally, he said. Copper River salmon, a wild salmon from Alaska, and soft shell crabs are in season right now, and he usually carries swordfish in the summer because it’s nice on the grill, he said.
The market will also make its own ceviche, crab cakes, shrimp cakes, salmon burgers and mango salsa, and carry some hard-to-find frozen items, including king crab legs, lobster tails, octopus and calamari steaks.
“Regular grocery stores always have the same thing,” Candia said. “You’re never going to find red grouper, Chilean sea bass or Artic char at Jewel. We’re always trying to find stuff you’re never going to find in a regular grocery store, and we cut the fish right in front of the customer so you can choose what piece of fish you’re going to take home.”
All the fish he sells is two-to-three days out of the ocean, which is excellent for the Midwest, he said, and everything except the tilapia and rainbow trout is wild-caught. He picks up the fish from a wholesaler near O’Hare Airport at 6 a.m. every morning, checking over fish that has just arrived from the coasts, to make sure the selection in his stores is always the freshest available.
If customers are looking for something in particular, the market takes special orders and can have the item by the next morning.
Customers will notice immediately that there’s no fishy smell at any of his stores, he said, because fish only begins to smell when it’s old. Because Candia believes freshness matters with a delicate item like fish, the market never offers “specials.”
“The problem with specials is that when you do a special, it’s because that item needs to go,” he said. “We only get enough fish for one day.”
He’s been in the seafood business for 13 years, getting his start at Diamond Seafood in St. Charles, where he packed boxes of fish and delivered them every morning. In the evenings, he worked as a cook at a country club.
When the owner of Diamond Seafood put it up for sale four years ago, the Candias purchased it and renamed it E & S Fish Company. As the business in St. Charles grew, Ernesto began using his experience as a cook to offer a lunch menu, offering entrees such as Oysters Rockefeller; Arctic char with champagne sauce; shimp burritos with tomatillo sauce; and sea scallop ceviche.
The Elburn location won’t offer lunch for now, Candia said, but if the store does well enough, he hopes to do so eventually. For now, he and his staff will offer cooking tips to customers.
“Any customer can ask anything about the fish, (such as) where it came from or how to cook it,” he said. “We can give you cooking instructions and easy recipes, because it doesn’t matter if it is great fish if you don’t know how to cook it.”
Candia said he wants to offer the best seafood in the area.
“Ream’s has been here for a long time because they are good. They know what they are doing over there. And we know what we are doing with fish,” he said.
Retail hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. The market will be closed on Mondays.